The RCMP is investigating allegations of child abuse at Dr. Brass School.
The case dates to a January 2011 incident during which Sonya Solonas said her son Tristan, then six years old, was locked for two hours in a windowless room in the basement of the school.
Solonas said as a result of the confinement, Tristan suffered trauma, which requires on-going treatment including play therapy and medication. She said he can now only attend school for an hour a day and that she has had to quit her job in order to care for him.
Dwayne Reeve, director of education for Good Spirit School Division, would not comment on the specific case because of potential litigation, but he did say that restraint and/or seclusion is occasionally necessary if students present an imminent danger to themselves or others.
Prior to the alleged incident with Tristan, the division had no official policy, but has since published an administrative procedure entitled “Seclusion and Physical Restraint.”
The procedure states: “Seclusion or physical restraint is viewed as a “last resort” intervention while maintaining student dignity as much as possible. “Last resort” means that all other possible reasonable interventions have been implemented with fidelity and these interventions have failed to prevent or de-escalate a situation and there is significant concern for the personal safety of the student and/or others.”
Solonas takes little comfort in the fact the division has codified its policy.
“Is it supposed to make me feel better that they made up a policy after the fact?” she said. “It doesn’t. It’s a slap in the face.”
Although the procedure was not in place at the time, Reeve is satisfied proper protocols were observed.
Solonas isn’t buying it. She believes the seclusion of Tristan was punitive and that the school board has not taken appropriate action against the officials who were involved, so she took it to the police.
“It’s about accountability,” Solonas said. “These are public schools, I believe the public needs to know.”
The RCMP said it is too early to say whether any charges might be laid.
Regardless of legalities, seclusion in schools, especially of younger children, has come under fire in recent years.
In an Issue Brief dated February 2011, the Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Intervention in the United States, outlined the problems associated with seclusion and restraint including: “…the potential risk of psychological problems, including trauma, among young children who are exposed to restraint and seclusion procedures.
“Young children can be very frightened, anxious, or nervous because they do not have the skills to understand the procedures and their consequences (what is happening). Furthermore, use of restraint or seclusion involves the real risk that children inadvertently learn that their caregivers are responsible for placing them in ‘scary’ situations, which can impair the development of safe and secure relationships with other adults and peers.
“There is also the risk that children may learn that classrooms are associated with invasive and traumatic experiences, which may lead to future difficulties in subsequent schooling.”